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Queerbaiting is a term used to describe a manipulative marketing practice of using perceived or potential queerness for publicity.[1][2] It has allegedly been used since the 1950s[3] and has been used online,[1] such as by users on the blogging platform Tumblr expressing anger over the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in media,[4][5] and has since been expanded to include businesses and celebrities using queer imagery to appeal to the LGBTQ+ community for the sake of publicity, promotion, or capitalistic gain.[1] Deliberate queerbaiting has a malicious element, often most-clearly seen through television media as writers and creators hint at queerness before "emphatically denying and laughing off the possibility".[6]

Queerbaiting is not the same as queercoding, as queercoding occurs when there is "enough subtext available for an audience to read [characters] as queer",[7] but is not necessarily manipulative, unlike queerbaiting. Joseph Brennan noted in his book that there is a distinction between "unintentional, or genuine, homoeroticism and queerbaiting" (emphasis original).[8]

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Etymology[]

The term comes from the noun "queer" (not-heterosexual, not-cisgender) combined with the verb "to bait" (the act of luring, as if into a trap). It harkens from the political portmanteau of "race-baiting",[3][5] which was used to bring up perceived negative details of an opponent to undermine them.

History[]

Historically, there has been limited representation of queer people in mainstream media; the representation that did exist often painted gay male characters as villains or people with mental disorders,[9] while women demonstrating lesbian traits were frequently killed off to suit a white heteronormative narrative - the 'tragic lesbian' theme.[10]

While the practice of queerbaiting is often seen as a negative, some members of the LGBT+ community view it as an improvement in the representation of queer people and queer relationships.[11] Conversely, some believe that queercoded characters who do not end up cementing that queerness (often by entering a canon relationship) amount to queerbaiting, regardless of extenuating contexts or circumstances, including the "queerness" of the creators themselves or the LGBT+ representation and diversity already contained within such media.[12]

Queerbaiting in celebrities[]

In 2022, eighteen-year-old actor Kit Connor was harassed over playing a gay character while not being explicitly out as queer. After being accused of being straight while playing a gay character, he attempted to quell the masses by releasing a statement that fans don't know his sexuality better than he does.[13] The alleged fans continued to accuse him and the creatives behind Heartstopper for queerbaiting by not casting a queer actor to play the role. Kit ultimately was forced to come out as bisexual and expressed his disappointment over being forced to come out before he was ready. He follows several queer actors that have either been forced out of the closet after being accused of queerbaiting.[14] Many celebrities have been forced to explicitly label themselves on social media to appease the masses.[15] These celebrities include but are not limited to Cardi B only months prior,[16] Rita Ora in 2018,[17] and Halsey in 2017, for what she called her "celebrity coming out", after many accused her of faking her bisexuality to sell albums. For Halsey, she had already come out before becoming a celebrity, but was forced to come out again for the public eye.[18]

An argument was made in an online article that an actor isn't their character, and to assume an actor is - or isn't - queer is harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, as it falls into harmful stereotypes. The article further expressed how accusing an actor of queerbaiting without knowing their sexuality or labelling them is constricting for everyone. At the end of the day, it's not anyone's place to speculate about another human's sexual orientation.[19]

Media[]

For more information regarding Queerbaiting in media, please see the queerbaiting trope page.

When speaking from a strictly media perspective, queerbaiting refers to the usage of creating an illusion of queerness around a specific character or characters to lure in audiences. The creator or writers manipulatively use subtext to imply a romantic attraction but have no intention to ever make it canon. This includes the posture of characters, interactions, conversations, and even blatantly making one of the characters queer while refusing to acknowledge the other. It is a recurrent and still popular trope in media, with the most common version being a "dreamscape" where two characters are inherently queer in that world but not in the "canon" storyline.[20]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Why Queerbaiting Matters More Than Ever" by Mendes II, Moises on <rollingstone.com>. Published 2021-07-23 by Rolling Stone. (no backup information provided)
  2. "Queerbaiting: What it Looks Like and Why It's Harmful" by Murphy, Colleen on <health.com>. Published by Health.com. (no backup information provided)
  3. 3.0 3.1 "What Is Queerbaiting? - Meaning & Explanation" on <dictionary.com>. Published 2022 by Dictionary.com. (no backup information provided)
  4. "An Explanation of Queer Baiting and Why It's a Problem" by Lan on <atlanxic.tumblr.com>. Published 2012-11-28 by Tumblr. (no backup information provided)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Queer Baiting - 21st-Century Interdisciplinary Dictionary" on <neologisms.blogs.wm.edu>. Published 2016-03-29 by Neologisms. (no backup information provided)
  6. Moritary's Ghost: Or the Queer Disruption of BBC's Sherlock by Fathallah, Judith. Published 2015 by Television News & Media.
  7. "What is Queerbaiting vs Queercoding?" by Jaigirdar, Adiba on <bookriot.com>. Published 2021-07-09 by Book Riot. (no backup information provided)
  8. Queerbaiting and fandom : teasing fans through homoerotic possibilities (in English), with Brennan, Joseph. Published 2019 by University of Iowa Press.
  9. "Queer Coding and Queer Baiting" by Shannon, Rogan on <roganshannon.com>. Published 2018-05-15. (no backup information provided)
  10. "Queer women have been killed on television for decades. Now The 100's fans are fighting back" by Framke, Caroline on <vox.com>. Published 2016-03-25 by Vox. (no backup information provided)
  11. "Queerbaiting - exploitation or a sign of progress?" by Honderich, Holly on <bbc.com>. Published 2019-04-08 by BBC News. (no backup information provided)
  12. "Steven Universe Artist Quits Twitter Over Fan Harassment" by Elderkin, Beth on <gizmodo.com>. Published 2016-08-13 by Gizmodo. (no backup information provided)
  13. "Heartstopper's Kit Connor calls out fans over sexuality speculation" by Susannah Alexander on <digitalspy.com>. Published May 8, 2022 by Digital Spy. (no backup information provided)
  14. "congrats for forcing an 18 year old to out himself. i think some of you missed the point of the show." by @kit_connor on <twitter.com>. Published November 11, 2022. (no backup information provided)
  15. "Kit Connor Is Accused Of Queerbaiting – Is That A Fair Call?" by Donovan, Joshua on <dnamagazine.com.au>. Published September 13, 2022 by DNA. (no backup information provided)
  16. "Cardi B Dunks on a Tweet Questioning Her Bisexuality" by Matthew Rodriguez on <them.us>. Published September 19, 2022 by Them. (no backup information provided)
  17. "Rita Ora Defends Her Song 'Girls' By Outing Her Sexuality" by @RitaOrta on <twitter.com>. Published May 14, 2018. (no backup information provided)
  18. "Halsey Is Coming Through Loud and Queer" by Kirsten Stegemoeller on <papermag.com>. Published June 19, 2017 by Paper. (no backup information provided)
  19. "Doctor Who and Heartstopper share the same fan issue" by David Opie on <digitalspy.com>. Published May 9, 2022 by Digital Spy. (no backup information provided)
  20. "Queerbaiting vs. Representation: Media Today" by Leah Ronski on <pantherbanter.com>. Published October 14, 2020. (no backup information provided)
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